Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Sophie Rae on 07/13/2011

Party Whipped: The Trials of a Teenage Feminist Rocker

First gig! Yes, as a matter of fact I DID think I looked cool.

First gig! Yes, as a matter of fact I DID think I looked cool.

I think I’ve always been somewhat of a feminist, even if I didn’t know it.

When I started playing in bands when I was 9, I didn’t have any idea that my gender would be an issue. Music was what I loved, and to my Trash and Vaudeville size 00 jeans-wearing self, playing super-distorted covers of Clash songs seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

But as we kept playing and as my nievaté began to dwindle (I had reached the age of 12 and my peak of intellectual maturity), I started to notice something weird. In interviews, I was asked to talk not about my music but about my favorite lip gloss flavor or my latest boy-band crush (which all young girls presumably have, I mean, why not?). Sound-men walked me through using a guitar amp as condescendingly as when Emily Gilmore called Luke’s diner “rustic” (Gilmore Girls, anyone?). Apparently, not everyone thought my being a girl was quite as normal as I thought it was.

And it was just as I discovered sexism, that I discovered Riot Grrrl. I knew that there was absolutely no reason that I should be treated any different than a male musician or be judged on a different scale. And that was exactly what the Riot Grrrls were saying. I liked the grinding guitars on Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl and the manic vocals on Sleater-Kinney’s album The Woods. I liked listening to records with titles so explicit that iTunes felt the need to change them to P***Y Whipped, which my 12-year-old self of course took to stand for “Party Whipped.” Way to go iTunes, mission accomplished. Mostly, I loved the idea that music wasn’t just a guys’ world, but that girls could, and should, be a part of it too.

Kathleen Hanna with Bikini Kill

Kathleen Hanna with Bikini Kill

But I didn’t really catch on to the Riot Grrrl or feminist community until this year, when my band played the absolute coolest show in the world: a Kathleen Hanna tribute show at the Knitting Factory, which was put on for a documentary being made about the goddess herself.

For the first time, Riot Grrrl wasn’t just me alone in my room jumping around to Bratmobile, it was me as part of a community of people who love the music I love and who believe in what I believe in.

After that show, I ran to the bookstore and bought the Feminine Mystique. I started reading feminist blogs like Feministing and Ms.Magazine. I practically memorized the Riot Grrrl Manifesto. I know “empowered” is such a predictable word to use to describe my reaction to all this stuff, but it’s totally how I felt. Finding out that I am one of many, many women who aren’t ok with sexism and want to DO something about it gave me so much confidence in my ideas and in my ability to act on them.

Why can't boy bands look like this anymore?

Why can't boy bands look like this anymore?

And I started to wonder, why am I just finding out about this community now? How could this fascinating, incredible world have remained a secret to me for such a long time? I think it’s partly because I was just too wrapped up in my own world of school and my band and stuff. But mostly, I think it’s because Riot Grrrl and feminism just aren’t part of the current teen-universe (the teen-i-verse as it shall now be referred to). The teen-i-verse is limited, mostly to bad, swoopy-haired boy-bands and pop princesses whining about the swoopy-haired boys; and as a result, lots of teenagers who would be totally inspired and empowered by Riot Grrrl and feminism, just aren’t given that chance.

Recently I decided to start a zine called Grrrl Beat. I want it to be a super-cool forum where people can go to read and talk about music, culture, fashion, art, books, feminism, you name it! It will also be a place where young artists and musicians can post their work and receive feedback from our online community. But I don’t want this to be just a website with me ranting and raving about whatever pops into my head (as fascinating as that would surely be). I’m looking for contributions!

I know this zine may not solve the larger problem at hand. I know this zine may not give our culture the radical transformation it so desperately needs.

But a grrrl can dream! Right?!

Sophie Rae is the lead singer/guitarist for the band Care Bears on Fire (blogged about on the FBomb back in 2009). Check out Sophie’s new zine, Grrrl Beat, and consider submitting!

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  • Alexa @ at 9:36 pm, July 13th, 2011

    Great piece.
    And YES, I got the Gilmore Girls reference ;)

  • Katherine C. @ at 11:42 pm, July 13th, 2011

    Wonderful piece! I loved it! You GO, GRRRL!

  • Sophie Rae @ at 6:35 pm, July 15th, 2011

    Thanks Alexa and Katherine! I’m glad you got the reference, Alexa!

  • SPEEDbit @ at 6:53 pm, July 16th, 2011

    Rock girls with a message. So many of them. Melissa Etheridge is one of our faves. Not too many women out there who can drive the message home with music. You are one of those pioneers! Keep at it!

  • Welcome to Monday ~ 18 July 2011 | @ at 5:31 pm, July 17th, 2011

    […] The trials of a teenage rocker: “In interviews, I was asked to talk not about my music but about my favorite lip gloss flavor or my latest boy-band crush” […]

  • tony @ at 9:01 am, July 19th, 2011

    When you were 12 you were shocked at the double standard that you probably now, as do most women, perpetuate. The core of social structure is mating and reproducing. So lets look at dating- you, the female, bring yourself to the table, the male is expected to bring his abilities. The female self is valued. The selves of most males are value less to women. I bet you, as liberated as you are do not pay for all your date. You probably do not even pay for most of them. At best it would be 50/50. There are very few women that would pay for all, or even most dates. On the other hand women expect and men know that its the male who should pay for at least most of the dates. So they were simply reflecting on the double standard that you, or at least most women perpetuate.

  • Gina @ at 11:53 pm, July 24th, 2011

    I love how men always use the paying for dates argument as evidence that women have nothing to complain about. Sure, maybe we get a lot of free dinners. That has zero to do with female’s musical talent being underestimated or questioned based on her gender, which is a serious problem. Nice strawman argument you set up there, Tony.

    I actually think it is kind of sad that, when Sophie was 12 years old, she could have just continued to focus on music but the sexism she experienced pushed her towards feminism. She found the riot grrl movement because she needed to reconcile being treated differently when she was not different, musically. Music isn’t a gender issue. Music is music. In Sophie’s case, the men she encountered playing music distracted her from making music a music thing rather than a gender thing.

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